Two Award-Winning Poets Visiting the Region

If you’re in NEPA, there are two events worth checking out this week. Two poetry heavyweights are giving FREE readings! First, Maria Mazziotti Gillan is reading at Keystone College, in Evans Hall, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Here is her bio:

Ms. Gillan has published 21 books, most recently the poetry collection What Blooms in Winter (NYQ, 2016) and the poetry collection with some of her paintings, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets (Redux Consortium). She is the founder and executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, Paterson, N.J. and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. Ms. Gillan is also director of the creative writing program and professor of poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY. She is the recipient of many awards for poetry and service to the literary community. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The New York Times, Poetry Ireland, Connecticut Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Christian Science Monitor, LIPS, and Rattle, as well as numerous other journals and anthologies.

Second, Yusef Komunyakaa is reading at Binghamton University this Thursday evening. For his bio and details about the reading, click here.

We’re lucky to have two big names and wonderful poetry advocates visiting this region within a day of each other.

 

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Philadelphia Writers Conference and Interview

I don’t usually promote conferences and residencies on this blog because there are SO many of them, and it’s hard to keep track. However, I do like to promotes ones that are semi-local, and more importantly, affordable. I became aware of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference when my friend Uriah became a board member a few years ago. I dug in and researched the conference more, trying to see how it differed from the hundreds upon hundreds of others writers conferences that exist throughout the U.S.  Here is where I think it differs: its focus is multi-genre, with a heavy emphasis on bettering one’s craft.  It has several panels and workshops dedicated to craft. So, essentially, it is not just a place to pitch ideas to agents or hawk a poetry manuscript. Sure there is some of that, but there is also a lot of attention given to strengthening one’s skills. If you take the time to attend some of the workshops, you’ll leave with additional tools and ideas, not just business cards.

If you’re looking to attend something in PA and visit my favorite U.S. city (Philly), then check out the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. You can still register, too.

In the meantime, if you want, you can check out this video interview I did with Uriah, on behalf of the conference, as a means to talk about writing and poetry.

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In Defense Of…

Confession: for a few months, I pondered ending the reading series that I’ve been running for over five years, The Writers’ Showcase. The series has undergone a lot since its inception, including three venue changes and a co-host who moved to Philadelphia. However, after talking to writer friends from across the county, I’ve decided to keep it going. I’m grateful to them for sparking my motivation to keep doing this thing. We’ve had a lot of conversations about the Trump age and what this means for the arts, namely if the NEA and NHE are totally defunded, which has been proposed in the Trump budget. No matter the fate of those organizations, it is imperative that we keep these local reading series going as a means to give a voice to writers. Writers have always been a form of resistance, and we need to ensure that we have spaces and series to make their work available to the public. With that in mind, I am going to host another edition of the Writers’ Showcase in April, and we’re thrilled about the line-up, which is included on the flyer below. I am also committing myself to continue writing book reviews for other writers. My goal is to write 4-6 reviews a year, a schedule I’ve been able to keep up with over the last few years and one I think I can maintain. Here is a new review I wrote of Patrick T. Reardon’s book Requiem for David, which I highly recommend. I was not familiar with his work until the editor of At the Inkwell asked me if I wanted to review it. Another goal for me is to review books of authors I’m not familiar with, as a way to expose myself to work outside of my usual circle and do the same for others.

Let’s think about ways that we can continue supporting our local art scenes because we really need that right now.

The Writers  Showcase Spring 2017 (1)-page-001.jpg

When it gets closer to the date, I will post the bios of our featured writers for April.

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Some New Words

I want to give a shout-out and thank you to The Schuylkill Valley Journal and Glassworks for publishing some of my new work. The Schuylkill Valley Journal published my essay “Revisiting Emerson: Why His Ideas on Genius Matter Now.” The essay was written before and after the election, in response to the international surge of right-wing populism. More so, the essay explores some of Emerson and Thoreau’s key ideas about protest and the American tradition. The essay can be read online here, and it will appear in print this summer.

Glassworks literary magazine published my poem “I Go Back to January 2015” in the new spring print and online issue. You can read the entire issue here. I encourage you to consider subscribing to either or both magazines, as they are two of my favorites in the tri-state area.

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New Project!

I’ve been living with Waiting for the Dead to Speak for the last several months, doing readings for the book, sometimes with other NYQ authors and friends.  It’s been a blast, but now, with the spring term in full force, I’ve been focused on teaching and writing new work. I’m also putting together a new class, slated to run next fall: horror literature and film! Because of this, I’ve immersed myself in film theory essays again, in particular ones about the horror genre. Because of that research, new poems arose, first a piece about my Catholic guilt and watching The Exorcist, then one about Boris Karloff as Frankenstein,  and then one about Jason, and so on and so on. I don’t typically write a series of poems about one subject. I haven’t done that in years, since I worked on my chapbook Front Man, which is about the punk rock scene. That said, horror movies, when done well, do a great job at addressing society’s larger anxieties. Due to the uncertainties we’re living in, it just feels like I need to be working on these poems right now. It also allows me to process what is happening in the current geo-political landscape, while also removing myself from it somewhat. A few of the poems have been confessional, like some of what’s found in Waiting for the Dead to Speak, but for the most part, I use the poems to explore a number of horror films and what’s at stake in them, be it environmental disasters, end of the world scenarios, class issues, or feminist undertones.

Who knows how many of these I’ll write, but after publishing some book reviews and a few essays lately, it feels good to really dive into poetry again.

 

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Some News and Upcoming Readings

This post is going to be short, but I wanted to share that I have two upcoming readings in the next week and a half, one in Philly and one in Lancaster. Here is the info:

Lancaster Poetry Exchange: Featuring Dawn Leas and Brian Fanelli

Barnes & Noble, 1700 Fruitville Pike, Lancaster, PA

7:30-9

FREE

Museum of Americana Lit Mag Philly Reading

Featuring: Shevaun Brannigan, Grant Clauser, Brian Fanelli, Irène Mathieu

University City Arts League

4226, Spruce St, Philadelphia

FREE

Lastly, I have a new poem in a post-election anthology put together by Birds We Piled Loosely Press. It will be out in print in a few months, but for now, you can read it for free online. My lovely lady, Daryl Sznyter, also has a poem in it.

I  have some reflections from the Women’s March in DC, but I am writing about it for As It Ought to Be, and when it posts, I will share it.

 

 

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Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed/Let it be that great strong land of love

Happy Inauguration/day/week/month, whatever you want to call it. As I write this, some citizens have their TVs turned on at home or at work, or maybe they’re scrolling through their smart phones, eager to see Donald Trump sworn in as the next president of the U.S. Others, meanwhile, may still be in mourning, or maybe they’re in DC, at one of the many protests, or maybe they’re choosing to tune out the news.

I’ve been involved in various progressive causes for a long time; I will say, however, that i don’t wish any ill will on this new administration. I hope upon hope that Trump and the GOP Congress realize they have to represent ALL Americans, including the number of groups that Trump attacked during his campaign and even post-victory. I don’t like to see this country as sharply divided as it is, to the point where some of us have stopped speaking to long-term friends or relatives. Even I have cut communication with a few relatives, and the election results are too fresh for me to try to heal that division right now.

That said, there is one good thing that has some from this election. People are engaged. They are  getting involved in their local Democratic Party, pondering running for school board or city council, attending meet-ups, planning rallies, making phone calls to their Senators and Congressman/woman, even their state reps. There is a level of political/civic engagement that we haven’t seen since maybe the 1960s. I do believe that Americans don’t want this divide, and I do believe a lot of Americans are fearful about what comes next. How will Trump govern? Well, we already have some indications of that. His cabinet appointments are a right-wingers dream team, everyone from Betsy DeVos to Jeff Sessions to Rick Perry to Tom Price to Rex Tillerson. Then, we received news yesterday that the budget Trump is leaning towards would abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and drastically cut funding to violence against women organizations, environmental research, and civil rights organizations. According to reports, the budget is essentially a Heritage Foundation “skinny” budget.” Cuts, cuts, cuts. The nomination of DeVos as Education Secretary and Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary are also clear signs that the GOP will try hard to fully privatize education and health care, something they’ve wanted to do for a long time.

My hope, moving forward, is that citizens will remain engaged and question statements from this administration, especially when they are  not fact-based. I hope Americans urge the press to do the job it needs to do, and I hope, most of all, that people continue to organize rallies, contact their representatives, and unplug from social media to attend a meet-up, realize they are not alone, and you know, actually talk to people face to face.

I will be at the Women’s March in DC tomorrow. I am attending for a number of reasons, but most of all because I believe in women’s right. Period. Following the march, I will continue teaching, writing, and co-leading a local chapter of a new grassroots organization, Action Together. We hope to keep people involved and get them to run for local political office.

There is work to be done. Since I titled my blog post after a Langston Hughes poem, let me end the post with a stanza from his “Let America Be America Again.”

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
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